Spinning Outside of Reality

One of the challenges to cycling is weather.  By necessity, unless the cyclist is part hamster, cycling is an activity that is best done outdoors.  An axiom (not mine originally) that I subscribed to when I was a spandex sporting road cyclist, was that I would ride in rain if caught in a storm but never would I start a ride if it was wet.  Only occasionally have I ignored that little rule, usually when rain has prevented me from riding for too long and I just had to ride, even then only if my spare bike was ready to ride.  When my cycling interest gravitated more to mountain bike and riding dirt, weather became even more of a factor.  Now, it’s necessary to make sure that trails are not too muddy to ride, as well as planning my time a little more carefully due to the time it takes to drive to the trails I ride the most.

Finally, we have had a week in Chicagoland without too much rain.  Getting rides in has been difficult a good portion of this summer.  It has just been too wet.  Last month, I had scheduled a four day weekend with the hope of visiting some out of town trails.  Alas, that week was the one where there was flooding everywhere within a four hour drive.  I made lemonade out of the lemons, stayed put, managed to get some rides in at the trails I always ride.  They dry out quickly.

I am driving to Duluth this Thursday to ride what are touted to be incredibly good singletrack trails there.  Thursday, of course, has a 66% chance of rain.  I am going no matter what.  Hopefully, I get the 34% chance of no rain.  My camping reservations are until Sunday, with reasonably good forecasts for the remaining days.  I will get my riding fix.

For those interested, my status is still separated, although there has finally been correspondence regarding a settlement.  My lawyer responded to hers today regarding a request for temporary maintenance, as well as addressing some mutual debt and child expenses that she is refusing to share with me.  I am probably overly optimistic, but there could be agreement on a settlement within the next few weeks.  Honestly, the real difficult part of this whole process has been the waiting.  The other stuff is just that.. stuff.

I could really use a few days of spinning outside of reality, however.

Resurrected Titanium

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I never intended to neglect her, even as I stopped to admire her pearled finish and timeless beauty as I passed her each day.  We used to be constant companions with hardly a day where we didn’t spend at least an hour together.  She was a gift, cherished in a way that expressed my true thanks to have such a wonderful machine.  Never a spot did I allow, never a fault or blemish.  My partner was too precious, too much a part of me, to allow any harm.

Then came the other one.  The dirty pleasure who showed me things that I had never even dreamed of until I met her.  She brought me back to nature, a satisfied peace that helped me escape to a place of refuge, my body experiencing a different challenge than my pearly beauty could ever give to me.  I was taken away, away from the stress of the road, away from the constant effort that the other required of me.  Sure, she had a bigger, more sturdy frame, but the ecstasy she brought made me forget all else.  With her, it was about the experience, not so much the sheer appearance.  Soon, all I wanted was my time in the woods.  Rarely did I come back to my pearly beauty, my first love.

I had to come back.  Saturday, I donned the spandex that I had spurned during my hiatus from my titanium beauty, the Serotta road bike that I have loved for so long.  Tentatively, I returned to the garage, prepped my white steed for a ride, picked it up, still astonished at how light the bike is for such old technology — the frame is over 20 years old.  It felt strange to wear spandex again, the tight material stretched over my 56 year old frame, a bit self conscious as I rolled down the first stretch of road.  The click of cleat to pedal brought a smile as my right foot found the Look Keo pedal, a surge as the first down stroke took affect.

It was a different feeling, not unfamiliar, the speed of the light bike underneath me, the resistance of high pressure road tires to the pavement much less than knobby mountain bike tires to dirt.  I rolled along at a nice, 18 mph pace after my body warmed up, content on a pleasant but humid Saturday afternoon.  The traffic was light, the ride easy.  10 miles in, I encountered an old friend at a stoplight, a fast rider who races, and settled in behind him for another 10 miles.

Home again, I realized that my muscles were sore.  Riding the road bike works different muscles than the mountain bike.  I was happy to know they still existed, annoyed that I had let them go.

Sunday found me with a text message from my “wife”, telling me that she had visited our daughter at her summer camp, where she is a camp counselor.  The air conditioning on our daughter’s car wasn’t working, so my “wife” wanted to know what to do about it.  I drove the 90 minutes to the camp, exchanged cars with my daughter, brought her car home.

The car went to the mechanic early Tuesday morning.  Instead of hitching a ride with my office manager, who lives close, I decided to take advantage of my renewed relationship with my road bike.  I rode to work.  For more than 20 years, bike commuting was something I was known for around the office, an activity I took advantage of nearly 12 months out of the year.  But since I took my new job over three years ago, I have bike commuted only a few times, not once since we changed office locations at the beginning of 2016.

Commuting by bike is different than merely riding for pleasure.  Unless one gets up to commute before dawn, a bike commute is going to mean that I am riding in the presence of a large amount of motor vehicles.  Even a dawn ride involves more vehicle interaction than an early Saturday morning ride.  Almost immediately, within the first few pedal strokes, I felt the uncomfortable closeness of cars constantly zooming past my backside.  Years ago, riding with traffic had become second nature.  It took a bit for that second nature to kick in again.

I enjoyed the ride, parked my bike in my office, a bit of pride at once again using my hobby in a practical way.  Really, I should have parked the bike in the storage unit my company rents in the basement.  Instead, I left the bike in my office window for all to admire.  She is a beauty, after all.FB_IMG_1500987905985

Last night, my second ride home on my commute.  Approaching a stoplight where I had to cross over a second lane to get to the left turn lane, a small brained motorist behind me decided to take his aggression out on me.  I won’t share the details — they are not important.  But I remembered another reason why the peace of the woods and dirt trails has become so precious to me.  I arrived home with clenched teeth, a result of stuffing the temptation to react to the angry motorist.

I will continue to return to my pearly white beauty for weekend strolls along less travelled roads.  I am pretty sure that I don’t want the stress of commuting any more.  Oh, I could get used to it again, as I did so many years ago.  I got to the point then where I rarely had an incident.. but the roads are different now, the congestion of the suburbs more pronounced.  I ride the bike to relieve stress, keep my body in tune.  I want to keep it that way.

Cat Pee Conqueror

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20170717_065458It is finished.  It smells finished.  It looks finished.  After much soaking, scrubbing, and blotting this cat pee conquistador is victorious.  The last step was to apply baking soda over the entire area, then a hydrogen peroxide + dishwashing soap mixture over the baking soda.  I scrubbed the foaming concoction into the carpet with a brush, waited a few minutes as it soaked in, then blotted it up.  I knew it was doing it’s job as the fluid in the towel began to come up clear, not yellow.  Crossing my fingers, I left for a few hours ride, came home to the scent of NOTHING.  When the carpet dried, the carpet was shampooed with cold water (hot water had been a bad thing earlier).  The water in the machine’s waste tank wasn’t clear at first, but it wasn’t dark.  No..more..cat..pee.

It’s a small victory, but the small ones still make me smile.

Old Yeller

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I am going to tell you this right now, know that I am shooting straight (or at least straighter than a certain two cats) — it’s possible to teach an old dog new cat pee tricks.

This old dog is learning the hard way.

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Dark picture. That’s a Fresh Wave container in the middle, bravely defending the room from the stink attack.

Finished with the painting of my recently purchased condo, mostly moved in, the place clean and tidy, the to do list whittled down to just a few things.  One of the things left on that to do list is to remedy the cat pee stains in the front corner of the master bedroom, where the previous owner kept the cat box.  One of the two cats was male and, being the typical male, he apparently missed the toilet now and then most of the time.  Let’s just say that it is very obvious where the litter box was placed in the room from the yellow outline in the carpet.  The stench was also obvious, not overwhelming, but not pleasant either.  Something had to be done.

Old Dog Lesson #1 — Do NOT use steaming hot water in the carpet cleaning machine when attempting to shampoo out cat urine in the carpet.

Remember that I said that the stench was obvious but not overwhelming.  After I shampooed the carpet last Saturday, the stench grabbed me by the collar and punched me in the face the next time that I walked through my front door.  To say that the scent is strong is an understatement.

Old Dog Lesson #2 — Expensive enzymatic solutions are not always the solution.

Not yet, at least.  I soaked the area with a popular enzymatic odor eliminator specifically formulated for cat urine.  I will dare to mention the brand as there are likely going to be people who read this blog who will recommend it.  Now the manufacturer will likely read it also.  The concoction I used is Nature’s Miracle.  So far, with the carpet nearly dry, there has been no miracle.  The stench might actually be worse.  I am not going to blame the cleaner.  Perhaps the fact that the area has been recently treated with shampoo caused the NM to be ineffective.  I have heard good things about NM, so I am not going to knock the stuff.  Unfortunately, the stuff ain’t helping.

If the odor isn’t gone once the cleaner has dried, I am going to try white vinegar.  If that doesn’t work, I am going to try baking soda with hydrogen peroxide and dishwashing liquid.  If that doesn’t work, I am going to buy gas masks and hand them to every guest as they walk through my front door.

This old dog is not pissed off.  Nor am I going to give up.  This does indeed suck, however.

 

Heck Might Be Too Much

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I belong to a unique fraternity, a band of brothers of sorts, all of whom worked for the same company for an extended period of time with a dramatic ending for each.  That trauma gives us a unique bond, one which finds us sharing fantasies of what sort of torture should be inflicted on the specific person who orchestrated our demise, an enemy we all agree is worthy of punishment.  Each brother has a different degree of lust for revenge, dreams that at times make me flinch at their harshness.  Revenge is not my cup of tea, not something I want to allow into my mind.  While I can’t claim to perfection, my disdain for the person of disgust clear to me, I can’t bring myself to hate a person enough to want them to be harmed.  Punishment for anyone is not my responsibility.  I don’t want anyone’s unmentionables to be chopped off and fed to them, as some of my friends have intimated.

That said, I guess there could be some things I might wish on my enemies.  If I were to put together a list, the top five things I might wish on my enemies might just look like this —

  1.  Chronic hemorrhoids for eternity.  I’m thinking that spending every day scootching along the carpet with the family dog might be sufficient punishment, especially if said enemy ends up in hell.  That adds a twist to the phrase “itching and burning”.
  2. Bette Midler singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” and stuck in their head 24/7 for one month.  I’m thinking one day of this torture might cause the inflicted to jump off of a tall bridge.  Fllllllyyyyyyy… flllllyyyyyyYYYY….
  3. Bad health insurance.  I’m pretty sure someone cursed me with this one years ago.
  4. Cub fans for a lifetime.  Sadly, this one exists and some people choose this curse.  As a Cardinal fan who has known baseball heaven on earth my whole life, this punishment would indeed be hell on earth.  The only worse punishment might be the curse of being a White Sox fan for life.  Let me just say this — professional baseball should be banned from the city of Chicago (wait.. it has been for some time).
  5. Put them in a minivan with three elementary age children who have just consumed three supersized frozen cokes each, make them drive a 1500 mile turnpike without exits and 100 miles between rest areas.  Bonus if the rest area toilets require $2.00 in quarters for entry.  Extra bonus if there are plenty of rivers and waterfalls to view along the way.  Heck, for added grins the van’s stereo should have Wind Beneath My Wings stuck in a loop and the off button broken.  Those hemorrhoids should burn even more as the butt cheeks clench.

I would love to hear further suggestions.  My mind is already beginning to churn out more ideas, an evil chuckle passing my lips.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45, NIV)

Jesus was right.  But, but, but JESUS, come on… just a few little thoughts?  You have to admit, the minivan thing is pretty good, Lord!

 

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

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I hate it when my actions exceed the threshold of stupidity.

Shut up… it’s not a daily, hourly, or every minute of my life occurrence.

One of the necessities of riding a bicycle, especially when riding off road, is being prepared for a flat tire.  There are some who avoid that unpleasant experience with tubeless tires, but I am not a tubeless guy (I like my tube) so I still need to carry a spare tube, patch kit, and CO2 inflator with me when I ride.  When riding my mountain bike, I have all I need stashed in plastic bags, tucked inside my hydration pack.. right next to the baggie of folded toilet paper.

Sunday morning, I decided to venture to the trails for a BCD (butt crack of dawn) ride.  It was going to be a sweltering, humid day, thus necessitating an early ride while it was still relatively cool.  As I unloaded my bike at the trailhead, the birds chirped merrily around me, greeting me in my revelry.  This was going to be a great ride, I just knew it.  True to expectations, my body felt fantastic as I zipped up the first trail, strong and good-for-me fast.  My warm up always takes me from the front of the park to the back, roughly a mile to a water crossing that leads to a nice, challenging loop of trails.  I got to the water crossing FAST.

The water crossing was a little deep.  Hikers have been damming it up, probably so they don’t get their dainty little feet damp as they cross.  Mountain bikers, who build and maintain the trails in the park, have been removing the dams.  Back and forth, build and tear down.  It has been a dam war.  When I came to the top of the drop into the water crossing, I noticed that the hikers had built yet another little dam.  Confident that the water wasn’t too deep, I swooped down the trail and into the water, my elbow wet as the water splashed around my bicycle.

*Fssssssshhhhhht fssssssshhhhhttttttt fsssssshhhhtttt*

Oh ssssssshhhhhtttttt.  A front flat.  The hikers must have been fighting back, booby trapped the crossing.  No worries, it was a front tire flat and I had my kit with me.  I removed the wheel, whipped the tube out of the tire, took out the spare tube, replaced it, inflated the tire with CO2.

*Fsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhttttttttttttttttttttttttt*

Crud.  I thought I had inspected the tire for the cause of the puncture.  I was out of luck since I only had one CO2 cartridge and one spare tube.  I replaced the wheel, carried my bike the mile or so back to my car.  Shucks.  The birds all pooped on me as I got back to my car, blew raspberries as they flew away.

Sunday afternoon, at home, I decided to fix the flat tire.  As I pulled the punctured tube out of the tire, a thought struck me.

Is it possible that I had put the same tube, the punctured tube, back in the tire that morning?

Intrigued, I pulled the tube I had put back in my hydration pack.  It looked new and unused.

I now have a large hand print on my forehead.

 

 

Hesitation

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I tried not to hesitate, but that’s the point.

Last Friday, I ventured a few hours south to Brown County State Park, Indiana.  My goal for the past few summers has been to soothe my soul with sweet single track trails, a goal I haven’t really been able to attain yet.. but I am getting there.  Life keeps getting in the way, not always a bad thing.  So I decided that I was going to make a solo trek, a semi spontaneous trip with little planning except to load my bike on the back of my car, with a change of clothes and nutrition for the ride.

It feels a bit unnatural to be doing things on my own right now, even though that has been the case for some time now.  Now I have that separated, living in divorce limbo cloud hanging constantly over me, so that gives me that disjointed feel.  It doesn’t help when people look at me like a broken toy when they find out that status.  I hate it.  I hate the waiting, the real desire to move on with my life.  That even includes wanting a companion, something that really isn’t right for me to do until I am a divorced, recovered from said divorce, man.

All of the above necessitates keeping active, not sitting around and letting depression take over.  Thus the bike trip.  As much as I like to ride Brown County, I almost had to force myself out the door.

The previous Wednesday pretty much forced me out the door.  In one afternoon, I found out that my company may not be able to pay me at the end of the month, I need a root canal, I owe an additional $6813 federal tax from 2016, and my homeowners association is requiring me to buy a $855 window for my condo.  All of that hit in about a two hour time period.  I looked at what I have socked away from the sale of the house, carefully planned in preparation of the coming divorce storm, and realized that there likely will be nothing left of that money come the end of August.

I will make it, I know.  I keep telling myself that God will provide.  The storm may be heavy for a while, but I won’t sink.

Geez… what a depressing blog!  The ride was great.  Just what the doctor ordered, even though it kicked my butt.  The time alone was therapeutic.  The quiet and change of scenery, heck the scenery alone was calming.  At one point in the ride, a mountain bike skills instructor told her three students to watch me as I cleared a large log obstacle on the trail, clapping for me as I passed by them, beaming with pride.

July 13th is a status hearing.  Ummmm… I wonder how much the lawyer is going to charge for that…… lol

Poo-ten Place

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One of the essential items that made the move from the house to the new condo was something that any man would be lost without.  Worried that someone else would grab it, I snatched it up and made sure it was stashed in a safe place for the move.

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And here it sits.  Now I can pretend that I have a pet dog.

It goes with the décor.

OK, that might not be accurate at all.  My place doesn’t even smell like poo.  It smelled like primer and paint for a while, but even those scents are gone.  Even the nicotine stench is mostly gone, a bit remaining in the walk in closet, the only room in the condo that did not get fresh coating.  Right now, my bachelor pad smells like cupcakes, the vanilla cupcake candle providing the illusion that I have been baking.

The décor in the place is starting to round out slowly, thanks to the generous gift of a red framed Farmall tractor puzzle that my father lovingly assembled for me (he made the frame, too), as well as the pictures that my precious daughter framed for me.  She also gave me a nifty old bicycle thingy.

Yesterday, I brought the dining room table and chairs up from my garage.  I put the legs on the table this afternoon, set the chairs around it.  There are floor to ceiling mirrors on one wall of the dining room, so it’s good that there is furniture in that room now.  Up to today, “friends” were suggesting that I put strobe lights and a stripper pole in the dining room.  After all, it’s every single guy’s dream, right?

Adjusting to sleeping in the master bedroom has been a bit of a trick.   Last weekend, I moved from the second bedroom, the room I moved into first, to the master.  The master is large, with two large windows that face the courtyard entrance to my condo unit, facing east.  When I go to bed, the courtyard light becomes my night light.  Used to total darkness when I sleep (no snide comments, please), that required some adjustment to get the blinds set just right.  I still sleep great.  In the morning, my room is lit by morning light as soon as the sun begins to peak the horizon, thus serving as a very early morning wake up call.  I am one whose body clock rarely allows me to stay awake late and which also will not allow me to go back to sleep once I am awake in the morning.  Right now, due to the the invasion of friendly sun, I am awake at 5:30 AM.

Getting there.  Slowly, I am getting things unpacked and in place.  The all important fake poo is out and ready to greet visitors.. so I guess I am set!

Proud

Today was a proud day.

My son graduated from high school — my first reason to be proud.

My son met my parents, Miriam (his mother), and his aunt and uncle for lunch.  Not only was he engaged, he was thankful for the generous gifts from my parents.  He spent time and didn’t rush away — another reason to be proud.

Honestly, the events of the day could have gone a different direction.  After all, Nate could have reacted to the separation of his parents, expressed his bitterness.  This was his day, his graduation day, and his parents sat apart from each other.  We got together after the ceremony, planned lunch together.  But Nate showed up, posed for pictures with us, enjoyed himself.  My parents were pleasantly surprised, even impressed, as was I.

I’ll take it.  These days I don’t get to see him often.  There is a high possibility that is why he showed up, sat and talked with me, seemed to enjoy the time together.  And, after all, it was his day.

Yesterday, I finished the majority of the painting in my condominium.  There is a little work left, but the majority is done.  May 6th, when the condo became my own, there was a lot of work to do, mainly due to the chain smoking habits of the person that I bought the condo from.  My dad came up to help me move in at the end of March, commented on the smoke stench then.  It’s gone, but it took a lot of work to make that happen.  On top of that, this place looks real nice and my parents were impressed.  The colors that I chose are subtle and warm, and once I moved my bed into the master bedroom, it was real obvious that the colors were the right choice.  Yes, I am proud.

I will take days like today.  Proud is good!

Three’s Company

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Apparently, my only toilet option after 10 PM from now on will be to pee off of my balcony.  Either that or pee/poo in a bucket.  Dishes in the sink?  Save them for the morning.  Out of clean underwear?  Commando if I don’t remember to stick them in the clothes washer before 9.  While you’re at it, Stevie, make sure the water softener isn’t set to cycle in the middle of the night.

Thanks to a downstairs neighbor intent on complaining about each and every noise or crime that goes on above her head, I have been sufficiently welcomed to my new neighborhood.  23 years of living in a house, situated in a very laid back neighborhood with neighbors who could care less about what I did, had me used to the benefits of living with some space in between.  I forget what it’s like to live in very close proximity to other people, how some people who live in apartments or condominiums itch to exercise their right to gripe.  It took my downstairs neighbor less than a week to report me to the homeowner’s association.

Pray tell, Steve, what horrific acts are you guilty of committing?  My first paragraph alludes to most of her whining — I wash dishes and clothes after 8, sometimes 9 o’clock at night.  Essentially, she doesn’t like the sound of running water.  While she was at it, she threw in a jab at my grill dripping grease on her patio (an impossibility, by the way).

Wait, the grill grease complaint was made during her SECOND attempt to incriminate me via the homeowner’s association.  The first complaints about the water use were made within the first few days after I moved in.

I earned a little bit of the second complaint, by the way, not because I was dripping grease but because I got tired of the woman yelling every night (no exaggeration necessary) from her patio every night, usually around 9 PM or so, usually directed at my temporary roomie (gone now), mostly unintelligible since the rant was screamed in a very thick Polish accent —

MARGE LAUBER!  YOU MUST STOP THAT!  YOU USE WATER!!!  YOU ARE BAD PERSON!!!  I WILL NOT PUT UP WITH NOISE!! (blah blah blah blah)

I knew about the first complaints after speaking with the property manager shortly after closing on my condo, who I called to find out how to pay association dues.  Pam, the manager, informed me that my adorable neighbor had already complained twice about me.  She also told me not to worry — my cranky cohabitant has complained about every occupant of my condo.  Pam apologized, laughed a little about it with me, said welcome to condo life (heh heh heh heh).

With that in mind, on a Thursday night, after listening to my neighbor moan every night that week, I decided it was time for it to stop.  It was 8:30 PM, I washed a few dishes, and she began her nightly rant.  Instead of merely listening to her until she lost breath and stopped, this time I stepped out on the deck to ask her to stop.

Not the best thing to do, although one would think that the best resolution would be to talk about it, hash things out and reach a compromise.

She spit words that sounded like ‘fix’, ‘police’, and I think maybe ‘pierogi’ was thrown in there.  There was no negotiation.  I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  Finely, I yelled back at her, told her that she has no gripe when she is complaining about normal life activity.  If she wanted to complain more, then she should keep complaining to the homeowner’s association and not to me, since I knew she had already complained.  She stomped back under the deck to her patio.

I received a call from Pam the next day.

OK, tell me what happened last night.

I gave her the quick story.  There was a sigh on the other end of the conversation.  Another apology.  I told her that from now on I would not engage the tenacious tenant, would simply ignore her.

Where are you from?  I love your voice.  Central Illinois?  I have heard that twang before.

Uh oh.  Pam is a divorcee.  The conversation attempted to get much friendlier.  Attempted, I must emphasize.

Condo life is still not bad, even with an overly sensitive whiner underfoot.  It is just going to take some adjustment, including my learning how to be kind and try to watch when I use water at night, etc….

Had I not talked to Pam yesterday, kindness would be more on my mind.  I had to call Pam because I still have not received the payment book or instructions on how to pay my monthly assessment.  In the course of the conversation, Pam leaked that my favorite friendly neighbor had attended the homeowner’s association meeting last Wednesday night, complained that my water softener was cycling in the middle of the night.

Ummm.. that’s what it’s supposed to do.  And it’s been doing that since it’s installation in 2009, I reckon.  Pam agreed.  But she also said that the homeowner’s association board has instructed me to not use the water in my unit after 10 PM.

I know they can’t do that.  Pam, the association rules don’t specify a time.  Legally, they can’t.  I had already used to trusty internet to confirm that information.  There is a lot out there about this blog’s topic.  She agreed.  Just be careful, she advised.

Then she asked me what my neighbor was installing under my deck.  An ILLEGAL awning, perhaps?  I would neither confirm or deny.

Until Mister Furley appears at my front door….